Light Monday Bloggage: Quarters & Typos

Donna saves change in a decorative wooden box, which I’m raiding this morning for quarters.  It’s take-the-motorcycle-to-the-car-wash day.  I’m going on a cross-country ride to Nevada and Utah later this week, and it just wouldn’t feel right to start a big trip on a dirty bike.

I read somewhere that the coin-op car wash industry is one of the major groups lobbying against the introduction of $1 coins.  I suppose that makes sense … they have a lot invested in meter boxes that take quarters.  The other major group is Big Vending, which, we’re told, is another word for Mafia.  At today’s prices, though (eight quarters for four minutes’ worth of pressurized water and soap), I wouldn’t be upset if the government pulled on its thuggish jackboots and forced the change.

Come to think of it, I’d better bring some extra quarters along.  By the time I get to Las Vegas, the Goldwing will be dirty again.

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I’m reading a new release on my Nook: We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen.  The Kindle e-book sells for $16.69 at Amazon; the Nook version is $15.40 at Barnes & Noble.  Potential e-reader customers probably think e-books top out at $9.99.  Surprise!  E-books … new releases, anyway … are not all that cheap.

So why are they edited like something you’d download free from a torrent site?

Within a month of purchasing my Nook, I’d already written a blog post about crappy e-book editing.  One of the very first e-books I read, Under the Dome by Stephen King (click here for my review), was full of typos and formatting snafus, and it too was an expensive new release.

I’m sure the publisher of We, the Drowned, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, edited the manuscript for the hardcover version.  But when they converted it for electronic readers, they clearly didn’t bother to look at it again before releasing it.  Well, stuff happens during the conversion process, and the electronic version I’m reading is full of errors: in addition to missing words here and there, on almost every page there are superfluous letters and characters in the spaces between words.  Like E this, or ‘ this.

This is not trivial.  I paid good money for this Nookbook and shouldn’t have to stumble over typographical errors every page or two.  What’s keeping major publishers from proofreading books after the electronic reader conversion process?  The price of a day’s wages for a single copy editor?  How much could that cost?  A hundred bucks?  Less than that?

No one would put up with errors like these in a hardcover or paperback book.  We shouldn’t put up with it in e-books, either.  When I Google “typos in e-books” I get over 200,000 results with titles like “too many errors and typos in Kindle e-books,” and “lousy proofreading in e-books.”  One member of a B&N Nookbook forum says he writes down every typo and formatting error he encounters, with the page numbers on which they occur, and sends them into the publisher.  To date, he says, he’s received no responses.  Most of these complaints date back at least a year.  It’s a known issue, one the booksellers and publishers are certainly well aware of.  Why hasn’t it been fixed?

I’m trying a more aggressive approach.  I wrote to Barnes & Noble today, asking them to credit my account for the $15.40 I paid for this e-book.  I also asked them to use their considerable clout to persuade publishing houses to do a better job of editing the e-books they sell.

That’s not all.  I’m going to write to some of the major book review bloggers to ask them why they aren’t warning potential Nook and Kindle buyers about the sorry state of e-book editing, and to recommend they tell disappointed e-book readers to ask for their money back.  If I’d known how bad the state of e-book editing was, I might not have been so eager to purchase my Nook in the first place.

Do I actually expect B&N to give me my money back?  Do monkeys fly out of my butt?  Do I expect to get someone’s attention?  Hey, I can hope.  If you’ve had similar experiences with e-books on your Nook or Kindle, maybe you too should start asking for your money back.

By the way, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt?  Pay me $100 a day and I’ll proofread your damn e-books for you!

© 2011, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.

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